How Website Security Impacts SEO

April 29, 2015   //   SEO, , , , , , ,

Certainly by now most companies have either heard about or experienced for themselves the devastating setbacks that can take place from both a revenue standpoint and a reputation standpoint when a cyber-security breach occurs. But just in case you didn’t already have enough reason to not want to become the next Sony, I have one more reason for you – Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You’re not the only one who cares if your site is secure, your customers care and therefore Google cares, too.

UPDATE: According to new research published on May 6, 2015 from Google and UC Berkley, 5.5% of unique IP addresses are infected with adware. When you think about the number of websites that exist today, 5.5% accounts for more than 5 million websites. Google’s radar for adware issues is heightened by the fact that they have received 100,000 user complaints about them in Chrome since the beginning of 2015. There are more complaints about adware than any other issue… These numbers are staggering and can only suggest that Google has taken a renewed interest in website security. We can expect more information to arise on this topic in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Over the past year, we’ve talked a lot about the importance of user-friendliness for SEO. As technology changes, the expectations of your users change as well. Certain features and functionalities of your website go from being nice things to have to absolute necessities for staying in the good graces of consumers. And with 93% of all online experiences beginning with a search engine, Google has a keen interest in understanding what the users want and serving up the websites that deliver it to them. This became all the more evident on April 21, 2015 when Google announced their new algorithm update which now penalizes websites that are not mobile-friendly – the update has since been coined, “Mobilegeddon.” Overnight, mobile-friendly websites went from being nice things to have to being absolutely necessary. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

As we continue to drive better SEO in anticipation of the changes in technology, it’s only natural that we put website security front and center. Hackers are becoming increasingly more capable of installing malicious code, redirecting your website to another, pulling private data such credit card information or removing your website completely. If a consumer lands on your website while it’s down, or worse, has their sensitive information stolen, they not only blame the website itself but also the search engine that served them the harmful link in the first place.

So, what is Google doing to protect their web browsers from harmful sites? They are warning searchers by labeling potentially dangerous websites with the simple line, “This site may harm your computer” below the title of your listing in the search engine results page. Are you at risk for getting tagged with a malware warning? If so, there are steps you can take to prevent this label from happening. Ideally, of course, you’ll want to take these steps before Google identifies your site as being dangerous to consumers.

Taking website security a step further, Google recently updated it’s algorithm this past August by giving a ranking boost, albeit a very weak ranking boost, to those websites that are secure with a HTTPS encryption. If you are an eCommerce website that handles sensitive passwords or credit card information, a HTTPS encryption is especially important to your business. However, with more than 200 ranking signals, regular content websites can get away without one. At least for now.

That being said, just like Google’s “Mobilegeddon,” that we could spot from a mile away, all signs point to security becoming a bigger ranking factor in the coming years for all websites. Google even states that they “may decide to strengthen” the security signals in the future (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). If you have not taken steps to ensure a more secure website, here are some things you should be doing now:

    • Stay up-to-date on your webserver software
    • Keep your WordPress plugins up-to-date
    • Verify ownership of your website
    • Maintain the security of you own computer files
    • Train your employees on how to spot malicious files
    • Monitor your site for common vulnerabilities
    • HTTPS encryption – especially if you are handling sensitive information such as passwords or credit cards

Worried about the health of your website? Have you been hacked in the past? We can help! Our Security Services and SEO experts can identify your site’s vulnerabilities and assist with removing malicious code, secure your site with HTTPS encryption and help keep you from suffering major setbacks in revenue, reputation and ranking due to future attacks.

Want to learn more about SEO?

Attend SWC’s Chicagoland SEO and Internet Marketing event where Mark Fitzsimmons and Kristen Schmid showcase “best-in-class” examples of web design, Search Engine Optimization and digital marketing strategy. This complimentary event is a great opportunity to begin the conversation around SEO and Security and see what actually works from today’s market leaders.

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